Iowa Speedway hunting for future Sprint Cup date

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The 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway, site of tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, has earned a solid reputation as one of America’s top short tracks. But while the bullring hosts NNS, Camping World Truck Series, and IZOD IndyCar Series races, it has yet to gain the one thing every major-league track wants: A prized date on the Sprint Cup schedule.

And it would appear that the Newton, Iowa facility may have to wait a little longer before they can be up for serious consideration. A bid to help fund improvements to the speedway with an $8 million grant from the state of Iowa fell short earlier this summer; the state’s Senate approved the grant, but it didn’t make it out of the House.

According to an interview this week with USA Today’s Andy Hamilton, track designer and minority owner Rusty Wallace has had multiple ideas on track additions that can help it support a potential Sprint Cup race. However, he admitted that “we’re going to need some help” in order to pay for those things.

“We know that NASCAR doesn’t give anybody anything until everything is in place,” Wallace said to USA Today. “It’s [the grant failure] a little bit of a setback because we wanted to put the infrastructure in place to prove to NASCAR that we’re ready for this race and we’ve got it handled.”

“Now they’ve got to go on our word and our goodwill of what we’ve done in the past.”

Wallace believes his track, which he says brings in $60 million annually for Iowa’s economy, may have to go about buying a date from another track in order to get around Sprint Cup’s very compacted 36-race schedule.

“The way things work, it seems like the schedule’s full, and it’s all about buying dates,” he said. “You’re going to have to buy a date from somebody else.”

Iowa has hosted the IndyCars since 2007, and NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series since 2009.

As for tonight’s NNS event at the facility, qualifying for the U.S. Cellular 250 will go off shortly after 5 p.m. ET. The 250-lap race will follow at 8 p.m. ET.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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